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Dylan's Visions of Sin Paperback – July 26, 2005
"The Last of the Moon Girls" by Barbara Davis
A novel of secrets, memory, family, and forgiveness by the author of When Never Comes. | Learn more
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About the Author
Christopher Ricks is a Warren Professor of the Humanities, codirector of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, and a member of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. He was formerly professor of English at the universities of Bristol and Cambridge.
Ricks is the author of Milton's Grand Style (1963), Tennyson (second edition, 1989), Keats and Embarrassment (1974), The Force of Poetry (1984), T.S. Eliot and Prejudice (1988), Beckett's Dying Words (1993), Essays in Appreciation (1996), Allusion to the Poets (2002), and Reviewery (2003). He is also the editor of Poems of Tennyson (second edition, 1987), The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse (1987), A.E. Housman: Collected Poems and Selected Prose (1988), Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909–1917 by T.S. Eliot (1996), The Oxford Book of English Verse (1999), Selected Poems of James Henry (2002), and Decisions and Revisions in T.S. Eliot (2003).
- Item Weight : 1.08 pounds
- Paperback : 528 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0060599243
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060599249
- Dimensions : 6.13 x 1.32 x 9.25 inches
- Publisher : Harper Perennial; First Paperback Edition (July 26, 2005)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #226,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Good: (1) Ricks is acute, even brilliant, funny and not pompous or mystifying. You could read this book as an example of how to apply "high learning" to popular literature (except Ricks never views Dylan as popular -- invoking the ballad tradition, in Ricks view there is essentially no difference between, say, Keats or Hopkins, with their etiolated language, and the American hobo slang of Dylan -- but maybe Shakespeare's
ability to go from high to low and back again is a warrant for this approach.)
(2) Ricks uses his knowledge of all of English literature. (3) Ricks engages with the songs as music/poetry, not simply words on a page.
Not so good: (1) Ricks' "close reading" technique can take him very far afield (into, for example, a lengthy analysis of a Philip Larkin poem that did nothing, in my view, to advance the discussion. And sometimes -- often? -- the connections/echoes he finds of other poems are.....umm, dubious? And sometimes just make you want to scratch your head ("ceremonies of the horsemen" suggests to Ricks that D. might have had in mind ....the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham palace). But a few misses and a lot of near-misses can be forgiven, I guess. (2) Ricks seems to think of Dylan as a great moral teacher. This is a "deformation professionel" of all critics of English literature, in my experience.
Also be aware that about 60% of the text engages with post-1979 Dylan, and about 20 % with the pre-electric Dylan, so
if you are more interested in the (to me, superior) middle years, you may be a trifle disappointed.
Interestingly, Ricks does not -- as I think most of us do -- believe Dylan changed or matured or maybe even declined in his art; in Ricks' view, Dylan sprang fully formed from the forehead of Zeus (or Woody Guthrie) and the Dylan of 1962 is essentially the Dylan of Blonde on Blonde is essentially the Dylan of all those post 1979 albums. I was not convinced.
Ricks categorizes the book into chapters by sin (e.g. greed, envy, etc) but also virtues and the heavenly graces (haven't got to the last category yet). The examples he uses in each category seem almost arbitrary as if he did no research at all and just used the songs that popped into his head (in fact there are songs used that are some of Dylan's worst and most insignificant. Why does Ricks use these instead of better songs? Good question.). Probably the most glaring problem with the book is the actual composition. Just when you find yourself mostly bored with Ricks' writing (not that Ricks is a boring writer, to the contrary, it's astounding how passionate he is and how he loves to show off his wit and literary allusions) and are hoping he'll say something worth reading like he did 5 or 10 pages back, the chapter comes to an abrupt end as if his pen ran out of ink. Terrible! I can't believe Harper Collins doesn't have an editor capable of demanding better from Ricks. And I suspect Ricks could have written a far better book with a good editor forcing him to do so. This seems like an indulgent labor of love on Ricks' part that is not really meant for public consumption.
Just goes to show, all those superlatives from The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, etc. either never read this mediocre manuscript or, like me, wanted to like it, but unlike me, skimmed through it and found enough to like to put their stamp of approval on it. Friends doing favors? That's how things go when you're trying to sell books.
Read Why Bob Dylan Matters and avoid this. That's my advice.